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Matrim "Mat" Cauthon is a fictional character in Robert Jordan's fantasy series The Wheel of Time. He is one of the primary protagonists and has moved over the course of the series from his beginnings as a mischievous farm lad into the role of a powerful, shrewd and successful general and commander of armies despite his dissolute and irreverent approach to life. Mat's character development often alludes to the Norse gods Loki and Odin.
Mat has a wiry body, brown hair and brown eyes. He is about 5'10" (178 cm) and about 165 pounds (as described by Robert Jordan). After the events of The Shadow Rising, Mat has a prominent scar around his neck which he conceals with a scarf, a wide brimmed hat, and a silver foxhead medallion that has the power to protect him from Saidar, the female half of the One Power (the medallion's effect on Saidin is disputed). During Towers of Midnight, Mat's left eye is ripped out, sacrificing 'half the light of the world, to save the world'.
Mat is known to be a troublemaker. Whenever he and childhood friends Rand al'Thor and Perrin Aybara were caught out of line, Mat was frequently the impetus behind it (and his sisters Bodewhin and Eldrin frequently the ones snitching on him). He is fond of drinking, gambling and women, though he can handle people in authority with the same easy charm. Mat constantly claims he never wants to be married (or in a serious relationship at all) yet at the end of the eleventh book he is wed to The Daughter of the Nine Moons, Tuon. From his upbringing in the Two Rivers he acquired a farmer's outlook on life, and skill with a quarterstaff; from his father, Abell Cauthon, he inherited a keen eye for horses. From ancient memories of previous lives, he is a brilliant general. He has a talent for separating fools from their money and an interest in affluence and fine living, though he has very little patience with the aristocracy and (like Perrin) continually refutes those who would call him a lord. A running theme in the books is Mat constantly trying to think of himself first and saying he's no hero yet finding himself doing whatever is possible to help others despite the dangers. Though he rather dislikes many of the Aes Sedai he's dealt with, Mat seems to find himself the "rescue man" more than once. He ends up rescuing Egwene al'Vere, Nynaeve al'Meara, Elayne Trakand, Teslyn Baradon, Joline Maza, and Edesina Azzedin. At the end of Knife of Dreams, he finds himself bound to a promise to rescue Moiraine Damodred from the Aelfinn and Eelfinn, as well. Despite his flippant ways, Mat is a person of honor; when he gives his word, he keeps it.
Mat, like Rand and Perrin, was led away from the Two Rivers on Winternight by Moiraine Damodred, and it was revealed that all three were ta'veren, threads that create a swirl in the pattern disrupting the surrounding area. Mat was the first of the three to show any sign of being ta'veren: during a battle with pursuing Trollocs, Mat gave the war cry of Manetheren in the Old Tongue, with no understanding of what he had said. Moiraine theorized that this was the result of the Old Blood that many in the Two Rivers are said to possess. Mat has throughout the series been known to unconsciously slip into the Old Tongue.
On the journey away from the Two Rivers, the party stopped in Shadar Logoth to lose the Trollocs chasing them. Against Moiraine's advice, Mat took Perrin and Rand to explore the city. While exploring, they met a man calling himself Mordeth, claiming to be a treasure hunter in need of help to carry a large amount of treasure out of the city to his horses. Heedless of the danger, Mat followed Mordeth immediately, and Perrin and Rand, unwilling to leave him behind, were forced to follow after. After he led them to a room full of various treasures, Rand realized that Mordeth lacked a shadow. Upon announcing this, Mordeth quickly reverted to his true form and vanished through a wall. Unnoticed by Perrin or Rand, Mat had picked up a dagger that he carried with him on the flight from Shadar Logoth. The dagger made Mat increasingly sick, as well as inflaming his paranoia, suspicion, and hostility.
Later, in Fal Dara, Padan Fain stole the Horn of Valere and Mat's dagger, having become tainted by Shadar Logoth's evil himself. Mat needed the dagger to rid himself of its taint, but also to survive until the Aes Sedai could cure him. He journeyed with Rand, Perrin, Verin, Loial, and Ingtar to Falme. On his journey, he discovered that Rand was the Dragon Reborn, and felt estranged from his old friend. In Falme, about to be overrun by the Seanchan, he blew the Horn of Valere, summoning Heroes from beyond the grave to fight for him. He is now bound to the Horn; it will work for no other as long as he is alive. He is destined to blow the Horn at Tarmon Gai'don. He journeyed to Tar Valon with Verin, Nynaeve al'Meara, Egwene al'Vere, and Elayne Trakand. When he reached the White Tower he was almost dead from the dagger's taint, but the Aes Sedai broke the bond between him and the dagger, though Mat almost died in the Healing. When he awoke, he found that he had many holes in his memory.
Soon after his healing, with a message from Elayne to her mother, he left Tar Valon and went with Thom Merrilin to Caemlyn. There he happened to overhear Rahvin, disguised as Lord Gaebril, plotting to kill Elayne, Egwene, and Nynaeve in Tear. He and Thom left for Tear, aided Rand in taking the Stone of Tear, and saved the three women from the Black Ajah. After Rand had secured Tear, Mat talked with Egwene, who reluctantly told him that a freestanding redstone ter'angreal could give him three true answers to any question. She was reluctant to tell him this fact both because it was private information from Moiraine and she worried over what he would decide to do. In Chapter 15 of The Shadow Rising, he deliberately entered it: "Not unless my life depended on it. That's what I promised. Well, burn me if it doesn't!" (The Shadow Rising). He had to decide whether to return to the Two Rivers and save his village, or to continue following Rand's ta'veren pull, which felt like the more natural course. The doorway took him to the land of the Aelfinn, snakelike creatures who would answer his three questions. He asks what he must do next and is told to go to Rhuidean. He then asks why he must go there and is told that if he does not he will die. Thirdly he asks why he would die and is told that if he does not he will be killed by those who wish to prevent his fate. The Aelfinn then attempt to force him to leave their world, but Mat, furious that they lead his questions with their answers, demands to know his fate to which the Aelfinn respond by giving the following prophesy. They prophesied he would: a) die and live once more as a part of what once was, b) marry the Daughter of the Nine Moons, and c) give up half the light of the world to save the world.
In the valley of Rhuidean, while Rand discovered his Aiel heritage, Mat found another redstone doorway, which brought him to the land of the Eelfinn, who resemble foxes. He was expecting to get more answers, so when the Eelfinn offered him wishes instead: he (unknowingly) wished to a) have the holes in his memories filled, b) be free from Aes Sedai channeling, and c) a way to get out of here (The Eelfinn world). His last wish was especially important, because in order to receive any wishes from the Eelfinn at all, a person must use one wish to exit their world. Mat now has the memories of countless historical military leaders and is thus privy to over a thousand years of cultural and military knowledge; he has a foxhead medallion that causes flows of Saidar to simply dissolve when applied to him (the medallion's effect on Saidin is disputed); and Mat was found by Rand hanging by the neck in Rhuidean, suspended from what is called an ashandarei in the Old Tongue (actually a naginata-like polearm) set across two of Avendesora's branches. Rand managed to revive Mat, though to this day he bears the scar round his neck; he also decided to keep the black-hafted ashandarei and it has been his signature weapon ever since. The spear's blade and shaft are engraved with two ravens each, and a caption on the shaft reads:
Despite a substantial aversion to fighting, Mat's re-filled memories make him a consummate strategist and tactician; he remembers battles and strategies that have been lost for centuries. Mat is an incarnation of luck: in games where chance is involved, like dice or cards, he wins almost all the time; and once when on a quest for information, a randomly chosen tavern yielded exactly what he was looking for. While Rand and Perrin also display the ta'veren's ability to bend chance, they usually create as many unlikely misfortunes as they do miracles; Mat spreads and experiences nothing but good luck. As of The Fires of Heaven, Mat hears dice rattling in his head when he is about to make a critical choice; when he has made it, the dice stop. More often than not, Mat (and, by extension, the reader) never knows what the important choice is, at least until the dice stop, and sometimes not even then: one instance of rattling ceased when a building fell on him. (He did survive. His resulting injuries also led to him being trapped in the city of Ebou Dar, where he would meet the woman he is fated to marry. Again, which topic the dice were addressing has not been specified.)
Just before the Battle of Cairhien against the Shaido, Mat attempted to leave Rand's company permanently, but upon seeing a band of soldiers about to drift into an ambush, he stopped to assist them. From there, luck, chance, his encyclopedic knowledge of warcraft, and (to his disgust) a growing sense of responsibility brought him from the fringes of the battle to its center, where he personally slew Couladin, the Shaido leader, and helped bring victory to the Dragon Reborn. He also gained the allegiance of a multinational coalition of soldiers who would follow him into the Pit of Doom if he led them. This new army, Shen an Calhar, the Band of the Red Hand, is personally loyal to Mat, believing that, under his leadership, they cannot be beaten. In Mat's absence (see below), Shen an Calhar has been doubled in size by his trusted general Talmanes, currently numbering around 30,000 men.
Mat traveled to Ebou Dar with Elayne, Nynaeve and Aviendha. There, the consummate ladies' man had the tables turned on him by Queen Tylin Mitsobar, who began to pursue him in earnest—and succeeded in catching him, for that matter, despite his attempts to make his lack of interest known. Despite the awkwardness of his status as (temporary) queen-consort, his confession of the matter to Elayne did manage to smooth over some of the more frosty contretemps that had gone on between them previously. He was then responsible for saving her from an attack by a gholam, deepening the gratitude between them.
Though Mat was unable to flee Ebou Dar before Seanchan conquered it, he was able to sneak out after, along with Thom, Egeanin, Bayle Domon and several Seanchan prisoners. During his escape, the Seanchan High Lady Tuon attempted to stop him. Upon restraining her, he found out that Tuon was, in fact, the Daughter of the Nine Moons, the woman he is fated to marry. After learning this he declares, in his surprise at finally meeting his destined bride, that she is his wife, thus unknowingly initiating the Seanchan marriage ceremony (which only required Tuon to also publicly declare herself his wife 3 times to be complete.) He then decides to kidnap Tuon and take her with them, determined not to let his mysterious future wife out of his sight, and, eventually, to keep her safe from the Seanchan forces trying to kill her. Mat and his coterie escape Seanchan territory by means of Valan Luca's Travelling Menagerie, and during their journey Mat begins to court Tuon in earnest, seeming to finally accept his fate. Her responses are never less than opaque, though, and when she finally does complete the marriage ceremony in Knife of Dreams, just before her return to Ebou Dar to reassert control over the Seanchan, it is entirely for political reasons, though Tuon expresses interest in the idea of affection growing between them. As the prince-consort of the heir to the Crystal Throne of Seanchan, Mat is now known amongst the Seanchan as the Prince of the Ravens, his title matching the ravens engraved on his ashandarei. He is later given the name "Knotai" and from its meaning, the title "Bringer of Destruction to the Enemies of the Empire" by Tuon, and assumes command of the Seanchan armies in the Westlands.
In Knife of Dreams Mat finally brings up the courage to ask Thom Merrilin about the note that Moiraine handed him before she entered the land of the Aelfinn and Eelfinn while attacking Lanfear. Thom explains to him that he had specific instructions not to show him the note until he asked. The note explained that Moiraine was a prisoner and that Mat, Thom and a third member were to enter the land via a mysterious spire called The Tower of Ghenjei.
While discussing how to enter the Tower, Olver overhears them and says that Birgitte Silverbow told him a tale where the heroine (actually herself in another life) used a bronze knife to draw the symbol for the game Snakes and Foxes on the tower and created a doorway. After deciding to rescue Moiraine, one of Mat's companions, Noal, insisted accompanying him and Thom.
They take along iron, music and fire, three things which can be used against the Finn. Once in the tower, the group uses Mat's luck with random chance to find Moiraine's location. Mat throws two six-sided dice to figure out which direction to go, assigning 1-3, 4-6, 7-9, and 10-12 to the four options (When it is pointed out that he can't roll a 1, his luck defies this by trapping one of the dice in a cleft of the floor while the other stops to show one pip). They must reach the Chamber of Bonds, the only place in the Tower of Ghenjhi where the Eelfinn will be bound to the bargain that they might make with humans. The fox-like Eelfinn try to distract the group first by trying to hypnotize them into leaving their fire, until Mat orders Thom to play music and break the lulling tone of the Eelfinn's voice. The Eelfinn falls asleep after hearing the music, but when they enter another chamber, they are accosted by some of the senior groups of Eelfinn, and they have to use their iron weapons and fireworks to escape them. At first, Noal tried to make a map of which chambers they had been in, but the geometry of the land did not work according to the normal laws of physics, so when Mat rolled his dice they often headed back the same direction and ended in a different place.
Once in the Chamber of Bonds, Mat offers one of his eyes as payment for the safe return of Moiraine, a straight passage back to their doorway and that none of the Eelfinn will stop them. In return, Mat fulfills the prophecy he received from them to give up half the light of the world to save the world. This meant giving up one of his eyes, which one of the Eelfinn violently tears out with a claw. Mistakenly, Mat forgets to bargain for safety from the snake like Aelfinn, and the group (plus a weakened Moiraine) is deterred from returning the way they came. Noal dies fending off the Aelfinn and reveals that he is the legendary Jain Farstrider, a famous traveler and author who disappeared years before. Having lost his dice to the Eelfinn, Mat leads the group through the tower by closing his eye and spinning around to stop in a random direction. In this way, he leads them to the other ter'angreal that was in the storage room in Tear, but they find it destroyed. Remembering that his original deal was for a way out, Matt realizes that his spear can create an exit and the three manage to escape.
Rand may be the central character of the story, but Mat and Perrin are only slightly less important; they are critical parts of Rand's battle against the Shadow, integral to his success at Tarmon Gai'don, and each in his own way is just as dangerous as the Dragon Reborn despite being unable to channel. For this reason, it should not be surprising that the books have begun to follow Mat's and Perrin's adventures independently of Rand's. By the time of Winter's Heart, the three ta'veren all run their own major plotlines and campaigns.
Mat, like Rand, has changed enormously over the course of the story. Originally the quintessential charming rogue, he has found himself in situations of more and more responsibility, most notably during the formation of the Band of the Red Hand. He has discovered what Rand and Perrin already know: that the three of them must lead, and that the Wheel will push them into positions of authority no matter what they themselves want. He is now more comfortable with responsibility, and although initially irritated by her, Mat marries Tuon at the conclusion of Knife of Dreams, making him what he always professed to despise— both married, and a nobleman. The events during Knife of Dreams also confirm what many readers had speculated from previous novels: that Mat would be crucial to the introduction of firearms to the world of The Wheel of Time via gunpowder used in the making of fireworks; he has already used explosives to breach the Stone of Tear.
The author said he intended to write some 'outrigger novels', one concerning Mat and Tuon. This statement suggested that both characters will survive Tarmon Gai'don. Whether these 'outrigger novels' will ever be published will ultimately be at the discretion of Harriet McDougal, the late Mr. Jordan's widow and former editor.